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Kresge’s Environment Program hosts Racial Equity Learning Convening


More than 60 grantee partners attended the first Kresge Racial Equity Learning Program (RELP) Convening, hosted by the Environment Program, Jan. 22-23 in Atlanta, GA.

During the convening, participants had the opportunity to share stories of their racial equity work, seek peer advice on their most pressing challenges, and workshop their next steps.

The Racial Equity Learning Program was created in 2018 in response to grantee requests for deeper knowledge and skills on incorporating equity, diversity and inclusion in their climate resilience work, and Kresge’s observations about the need for such skill-building in the climate resilience field.  The RELP program was then designed to help deepen and develop racial equity competencies for individuals within nonprofit organizations funded through Kresge’s Environment Program.

A total of 46 grantee organizations were engaged in RELP from Sept. 2018 through Aug. 2019.

Members from the organizations attended the RELP Convening in January to reflect on the successes and challenges of their racial equity work to date, and discuss how learnings from the program may impact their future efforts.

At least 80% of the grantees who participated in the program agreed they have a deeper understanding of racial equity competencies, a deeper commitment to equity, and more skills to apply an equity lens in their day-to-day work, organizations, and climate-resilience practices, according to survey data gathered by the RELP program manager, Community Wealth Partners.

Lois R. DeBacker, managing director of the Environment Program, and Shamar A. Bibbins, senior program officer, attended the event to share Kresge’s commitment to the difficult work of pursuing racial equity and to gain insights into what next steps Kresge might take in supporting grantee partners to deepen their competencies on racial equity.

“The energy in the room was so positive,” Bibbins said. “Overwhelmingly, the response from each grantee was this convening was extremely useful in having a safe space to talk about the successes and challenges of embedding racial equity into community-driven climate resilience work.”

During one portion of the convening, participants joined smaller racial identity affinity groups for detailed conversations about how to sustain themselves – mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually – while doing racial equity work.

“We know that racism – both individual and structural – unfortunately, remains a powerful force in the U.S.,” DeBacker added. “One’s racial or ethnic identity too often is a predictor of life outcomes. Given the historic racial constructs of our country and the too-frequent reluctance to discuss race openly, anti-racism work can be daunting. We appreciate the efforts our grantee partners are making to deepen their knowledge of, and commitment to, racial equity and to embed it in their organizations’ work on climate change.”

“The racial equity training and the product derived from it have become a staple in weekly conversations of team meetings and set goals have been implemented into project plans and objectives.” ~ Grantee feedback

Learn more: 

  • RELP Outcomes: Download a summary of the program’s outcomes to understand how well RELP achieved its stated goal and identify potential improvements for the future.
  • Racial Identity Caucusing: Here is a two-page overview of what Racial Identity Affinity Groups are, and why they are important.